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Ascension of the Lord - 17 May 2015 - Fr John's Homilies

Ascension of the Lord - 17 May 2015
  1. Mary was ill and needed a blood transfusion. Her little brother, Johnny, had suffered from the same disease and had recovered two years earlier. Since her best chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had recovered from the disease, her little brother was identified as the ideal donor.

 

  1. “Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. He began to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”

 

  1. Soon the two kids were wheeled into the hospital room. Neither of them spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. Johnny watched his blood flow through the tube.

 

  1. When the ordeal was over, Johnny’s shaky voice broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?” It was only then that the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why he trembled before he agreed to donate his blood. He thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life.

 

  1. When he agreed to give the blood, Johnny had agreed to die so that his sister would live. Fortunately, Johnny did not have to die to save his sister.

 

  1. Blood was a crucial commodity in the temple worship in Jerusalem. Much of the work of the priests involved slaughtering animals and shedding their blood to make atonement for sin, and sprinkling the people with blood to cleanse them from guilt.

 

  1. The reason for this was because, as the author of Hebrews explains, “Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

 

  1. The blood of the first murder victim, Abel had seeped into the earth and only blood could be the antidote.

 

  1. The most important institution in the covenant relationship of the Jewish people with God was not the king who ruled in God’s name, or the prophet who spoke the word of God, but the priest who offered the blood sacrifice that took away the sins of the people and restored them to God’s favour.

 

  1. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that in the people’s dealings with God, the priest was the number one mediator, since “Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

 

  1. Jesus did not identify himself as a priest or describe the role of his disciples as that of priesthood. The earliest Christians still worshiped in the temple and benefitted from the ministry of temple priests.

 

  1. When the temple was destroyed in d. 70 and the people had no more sacrifice, Jewish Christians began to understand that the sacrifice of animals in the temple was no longer necessary because Jesus has made once-and-for-all the only sacrifice of blood that pleased God.

 

  1. By the time Hebrews was written, Jewish Christians had come to see Jesus as the priest par excellence. Compared to the priesthood of Jesus, the priesthood of the temple was only a shadow.

 

  1. The ascension of Christ into heaven where he sits at God’s right hand making intercession for God’s people is compared to the temple priest going up the steps into the sanctuary, the holy place, to offer sacrifice. But the sacrifice of Christ in infinitely superior.

 

  1. Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf”(9:24).

 

  1. Temple sacrifice was limited in its effect, therefore it was offered constantly year after year. Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all time (verses 25- 26).

 

  1. Temple priest offered the blood of lambs, but Christ has offered “the sacrifice of himself”(verse 26). The blood of the Son of God is infinitely more powerful than the blood of animals to take away our sins and cleanse us in such a way that we appear unblemished in God’s sight.

 

  1. As today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, we do not mourn the disappearance of Christ. Let us rather celebrate his going up into the eternal holy place, God’s very presence, to make atonement for us.

 

And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful”(10:21-23).